The UAE is home for more one million Roman Catholics

Pope Francis is expected to visit the UAE later on Sunday. He is the first pontiff to visit the Arabian peninsula.

He has been invited by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to take part in an interfaith conference.

Pope’s trip will also feature a Mass on Tuesday that is expected to draw 120,000 people.

Pope Francis has condemned the conflict in Yemen, an issue that is expected to have referenced during his visit. The UAE is involved  in the war in Yemen as a part of Saudi coalition.

“I am happy for this occasion the Lord has given me to write, on your dear land, a new page in the history of relations between religions. Faith in God unites and does not divide, it draws us closer despite differences, it distances us from hostilities and aversion,” the Pope said in a video message on Thursday.

There are more than for more than one million Roman Catholics.  Most of them are from the Philippines or India.

Vatican hopes that the Pope’s visit might loosen restrictions on the building of churches in the region. As Vatican officials stated they need stronger presence in the UAE. 

“We are really stretched. We need more churches. We need more priests,” said one of the Vatican’s representatives.

During his visit, the Pope will meet Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque. He holds the highest seat of learning for Sunni Muslims.